CHELAN COUNTY — The thick smoke over Chelan County signals difficult times for some local businesses.
Despite reports from two area chambers of commerce that tourists are still visiting and participating in outdoors activities, some restaurants and boat rental companies, are struggling in the haze, according to some local business owners. People who made previous reservations to lodges and wineries may still be arriving, but the number of weekend travelers is down.
“When the Seattlites are (usually) wanting to come over and enjoy our hotter temperatures, I think people are just choosing not to come, knowing it is even worse here than it is in Seattle,” said Augie Bendtsen, manager at McGlinn’s Public House.
The biggest impact at McGlinn’s has been to its patio service, he said. The downtown Wenatchee restaurant usually provides outside activities, including live music and art nights. But because of the smoke, the patio has remained closed.
“We also don’t want to have a staff member working out for four or five hours in the crud,” Bendsten said. “We’ve had to cut back on staff because of that.”
McGlinn’s has been hardest hit on Friday and Saturday nights, he said. Those are the nights when people from Western Washington come and visit. He estimates about 60 to 70 percent of their clientele are visitors on those two nights.
Bendsten guesses that while there may be a drop in the number of weekend vacationers, those who already booked their vacation plans are probably still arriving.
“I would assume that they are a little more stable because people have had to pay upfront in order to reserve spots for their activities,” he said.
There is a general malaise caused by the smoke that keeps people indoors instead of eating out, said Tandi Rolen, owner of the Hunter’s Wife, another downtown Wenatchee eatery.
“It isn’t something specific,” Rolen said. “It is more of a feeling and an energy and people are more conservative when they are inside all the time.”
The smoke has also affected the number of boats and jet skis being rented out on Lake Chelan, said Elaine Cedergreen, manager at Lake Shores Watercraft and Boat Rentals. Many people cancelled their reservations when they heard about the air quality around Lake Chelan. It has had a huge impact on businesses.
“Yeah, huge, really huge, we have people cancelling for future reservations,” Cedergreen said. “We had a pretty OK weekend. But it was nothing like it would have normally been.”
While restaurants and rental companies may be seeing an impact, hotels and other lodging services remain full, said Jerri Barkley, communications and marketing director with the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce.
While hotels did experience some cancellations due to the smoke, those rooms were quickly filled by firefighters and others, Barkley said.
“And that is what we have experienced is that one market takes care of another,” she said. “Meaning we lose traffic in one area and we pick it up in another.”
Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce Director Nancy Smith said it has been surprising how many visitors are still coming despite the smoke.
“The odd thing this year is that smoke alone has not seemed to deter anyone and maybe it is because the smoke is coming from Canada so everyone is experiencing it,” Smith said.
Visitors are still showing up to the visitor’s center requesting information on rafting and using the zip line, she said. The smoke seems to create conditions similar to what Leavenworth experiences in the winter.
“We tell them to check the webcam and call as often as they want to,” Smith said. “Sometimes it is a snowy day and sometimes it is a smoky day.”